By: Blaize, Connecticut
I’m in the front passenger’s seat of a big, black-top Kenworth tanker truck with a silver 3,000 gallon water tank. Our station logo is in gold leaf on each door, with “Station 70” written below it. We’re dispatched to provide additional water at a large, two-story, wood-frame single family residential fire in the next town over. Although they are a neighboring community, this is rural Pennsylvania, everything is a long-haul, especially when you’re in an old tanker.
I flip the lights and sirens on using metal switches on the old black leather dash, which full of knobs, gauges, and switches. I’ve got the most experienced driver I’ve ever known, judging by the thickness of his handlebar mustache, behind the large steering wheel. I couldn’t be happier as my grandfather and I, the best firefighting team out there, pulled out of the small white firehouse. I reach up to blow the air horn to clear out traffic, but my eight year old arms aren’t quite long enough to reach the chain wire that activates the compressor.
We weren’t actually going to a real fire and we never left the firehouse parking lot. My grandfather was taking me for my annual trip to his firehouse, which was just a walk across the public park behind his house. When we’d visit every summer from Connecticut, he’d take me to his fire department, give me the full tour, and then gear up and dispatch us to a fake fire call (always one for the tanker, my favorite truck). It was a blast. These fake responses are my first firefighting memories, long before I joined my own department.
Thinking of this now, I can see that those annual trips to his firehouse were more than just the foundation for my own decade-long firefighting experience. I see that, as a young man, I was so easily absorbed and passionate about firefighting because our apparatus could transport me to rural Lancaster county. While responding to an emergency, the truck ride to the scene was an escape to a simple time, back to childhood, when the only worry in the world was what time we were going to grandpa’s firehouse.
I think we see so many generations of firefighters because firefighting families can connect in a unique way, sharing a special experience that can’t be replicated by anything else. It allows us to be close to our loved ones, even when that isn’t possible. Their memories, wisdom, and love can be with us during emergency responses, drills, and even when walking through the bay doors.